Young adults once again leaving nest
Small Texas provider competes by knowing market, president says.
With the economy improving and their jobless rate falling, more young american adults are leaving their parents’ homes and giving the housing market a boost.
By Gary Dinges
Competing with industry giants, Grande Communications is the little cable provider that could.
The growing San Marcosbased company offers cable TV, Internet and phone service to more than 140,000 customers in six Texas markets, including parts of the Austin area, where it goes head-tohead with Time Warner Cable, the nation’s fourth largest provider with 12.5 million subscribers as of June, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Grande is in expansion mode, president and general manager Matt Murphy says, and will soon be available in more Central Texas neighborhoods. The company has also rolled out several new products in recent months, with more on the way. The American-Statesman caught up with Murphy recently to talk about Grande’s evolution. American-Statesman: How did you get your start in the business?
Matt Murphy: I started my career in the finance world — first with investment banking and then in private equity, both with a focus in telecommunications and, specifically, the cable industry. I’ve always been attracted to the fast pace and changing technology of the industry and made the move to strategic management and ownership about 10 years ago. I really enjoy being part of a team that creates and executes bold plans. It is incredibly rewarding and the key to building excitement and camaraderie across the entire organization. How has the cable TV business changed over the years?
The industry started in the 1970s as a monopoly. Not surprisingly, its approach to customer service reflected that. For years, customers have despised their cable company — and with good reason.
Over the past 10 years, several companies such as Grande Communications were created to provide consumers more value, flexibility and choices than ever were available. With new entrants such as Grande, the competitive bar has been raised for all companies. We succeed because we deliver on our promises — and customers wouldn’t be with us if we didn’t. The fact that well over 95 percent of our customers we hear from would recommend us to friends and neighbors tells me we have really changed the outdated
industry norms. What changes do you think are ahead for the industry?
The entertainment industry has been, and will continue to, migrate to more choices both in terms of delivery and content. We have invested millions in technology at Grande to ensure we offer best-in-class HD, Video on Demand and online delivery of the best video programming in the industry. We have also partnered with TiVo to offer the most powerful way to navigate content across all platforms to find what customers want and allow them to view them at any time on any device. As the programming industry evolves to allow more flexibility, such as a la carte offerings, navigation and delivery will be absolute table stakes, which is why we have invested ahead of that curve. How has Grande been able to be successful against big-name cable providers such as Time Warner?
We have succeeded because we constantly differentiate ourselves from the competition and deliver on our promises. As a local company focused only on Texas, we understand what our markets are about and who our customers are. We strive to make sure that any interaction a customer has with us is a positive one and that we have gone above and beyond to take care of any issues as quickly as possible. I think Grande customers really appreciate being serviced by a provider who is nimble enough to really care about their business while having ample resources to offer the best technologies and services. Which markets are strongest for Grande?
We operate across six different markets in Texas — roughly half are the large urban cities such as Austin and San Antonio and half are mid-sized sized cities such as Waco and Corpus Christi. We do extremely well in the mid-sized cities, where we service the entire area and Grande is known as a local employer and a big part of the community, and because of this we typically have a larger market share than any other provider.
In the larger cities such as Austin … the biggest drawback we hear is that customers are disappointed that they cannot get our service in their neighborhood. We are doing our best to expand to cover more of the market. What new products have been rolled out recently or are currently in the works?
Over the past couple of years, we have made huge upgrades to all our products, but I am especially proud of our high-speed Internet service. Last year, we launched the fastest Internet in town with speeds that are more than twice that of the competition at 110 megabits per second.
This summer we rolled out “Get It All” bundles that combine our Internet service with our TiVo service. And in November, we launched TiVo Stream, which enables our TiVo users to view live TV or their recorded programs on mobile devices, such as an iPad or iPhone. Time magazine included TiVo Stream on its list of what’s hot for the holidays. Is Grande looking to expand its network? If so, where?
We have begun building again and over the past two years increased our network area companywide by over 15 percent. Going forward, we are targeting more aggressive expansion in the Austin market across many neighborhoods and large apartment complexes. We are looking to round out our coverage of the core Austin downtown areas and continue to build to large office parks to expand our large and growing business customer base. Grande was among the first cable providers to add the Longhorn Network. Has LHN helped boost the number of subscribers?
LHN has been a terrific partner for us and extremely well received by customers. This year has seen our strongest growth in years for customer gains – and LHN has certainly been a major part in fueling that growth. I’m really proud we were the first operator to carry LHN and, even now, we are the only one to offer LHN to bars and restaurants. The University of Texas has a hugely loyal fan base and we want to offer them as much access as possible.